What is Hepatitis C? Is it curable?

HEP C OR HCV

What is hepatitis c? It's a general question in the public? Here is all information about the what is hepatitis c deceases. This health article covers the hepatitis C cure rates and the possibility to save life after Hepatitis C.    

Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver. The virus, called the Hepatitis C virus or HCV for short, is just one of the hepatitis viruses. The other common hepatitis viruses are A and B, which differ somewhat from HCV in the way they are spread and treated. According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis C infection.

What causes Hepatitis C?

Because hepatitis viruses’ infection usually produces no symptoms or very mild symptoms during the early stages, many people don’t know they have it until liver damage shows up, sometimes decades later, during routine medical tests.  Some people who get hepatitis viruses have it for a short time (up to six months) and then get better on their own.  This is called acute Hepatitis C.  But most people (about 75% – 85%) will go on to develop chronic (long-term) Hepatitis C, meaning it doesn’t cure.

Whereas Hepatitis A generally gives rise to acute hepatitis, Hepatitis C results in chronic hepatitis in most patients. An easy reminder is C for chronic in Hepatitis C and A for acute in Hepatitis A.

There are various causes for Hepatitis C. View the list of risk factors that increase your chance of infection with Hepatitis C.

Learn more about your options for treating Hepatitis C and which medications may be right for you. Hepatitis C is the danger version of Jaundice.

How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is a virus that affects how a person's liver works. When someone has the hepatitis C virus, they may experience an acute hepatitis C infection, which is a relatively mild illness.

However, most cases of hepatitis C are only found once the illness has become chronic, by which time an individual may have it for the rest of their life.

For some people, the infection will clear up. But others will experience long-term, chronic effects that can lead ultimately to liver failure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 71 million people throughout the world have chronic hepatitis C.

Risk factors of hepatitis C

Because chronic hepatitis C often does not cause immediate symptoms, a person might not discover that they have the infection until they have already experienced significant liver damage.

For this reason, it is important that people know in advance how hepatitis C is transmitted. This critical knowledge can help people avoid spreading or contracting hepatitis C.

The following groups may be at risk of contracting hepatitis C:

People who inject drugs.

People who have received infected blood products or blood products from healthcare facilities with inadequate infection control processes, usually before 1992.

People who have a sexual partner with hepatitis C.

People with HIV

People who have tattoos or piercings, particularly those done in unregulated facilities.

Healthcare workers, who can become accidentally infected by a needle.

A person who has had hepatitis C previously or another type of hepatitis may still be at risk of developing a hepatitis C infection.

Symptoms of hepatitis C

A person can experience an acute or a chronic hepatitis C infection.

A person with acute hepatitis will develop symptoms shortly after contracting the hepatitis C virus. Symptoms of acute hepatitis C include:

Fever

Dark or yellow colour urine 

Appetite loss

Jaundice

Joint pain

Nausea

Stomach pain

Vomiting

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 65 to 85 percent of people who become infected with hepatitis C will go on to develop a chronic infection.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis C do not usually appear until a person has had the infection for some time.

Most commonly, a person learns they have hepatitis C after undergoing a blood test for another condition. Their blood test may show an imbalance in their liver enzymes. However, people infected with hepatitis C can still have normal liver enzyme tests.

Symptoms of chronic hepatitis.

Easy bleeding and bruising

Fatigue

Fluid build-up in the abdomen, known as ascites.

Jaundiced appearance, or yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes

Changes in appetite

Itchy skin

Weight loss

As cirrhosis develops, symptoms and signs increase and may include:

Elevated liver enzymes in the blood

Weakness

Loss of appetite

Weight loss

Breast enlargement in men (gynecomastia)

Redness of the palms of the hands

Difficulty with the clotting of blood

Spider-like blood vessels on the skin

Abdominal pain

Clay coloureds stools

Bleeding from the esophagus

Fluid in the abdomen

Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)

Confusion

Coma

Because many of these symptoms are non-specific, many people may not realize or even consider that they could have hepatitis C.

Preventing hepatitis C transmission

Currently there is no vaccine for hepatitis C cure. Prevention of the virus focuses on handling needles safely, having protected sex, and refraining from intravenous drug use.

There are many misconceptions about how hepatitis C is transmitted. The virus cannot be transmitted through:

Breast milk, food, or water.

Hugging or kissing.

Sharing food or drinks with an infected person.

Being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Hepatitis C infection (HCV) definition and facts.

Hepatitis C (hep C, HCV) is one of several viruses that cause viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).

About 3.5 million people are estimated to be currently infected with hepatitis C in the U.S.

Up to 85% of individuals who are initially (acutely) infected with hepatitis C will fail to eliminate the virus and will become chronically infected.

Hepatitis C is spread through exposure to infected blood. Intravenous drug abuse with the use of contaminated, shared needles is the most common mode of transmission.

The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact or breastfeeding is very low.

Generally, people with chronic infection with hepatitis C have no symptoms until they have extensive scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Some individuals, however, may have fatigue and other non-specific symptoms before this occurs.

In the U.S., infection with hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis and the most common reason for liver transplantation.

Much progress has been made in the treatment of hepatitis C. The rate of cure has increased (above 90%-95%) with the development of direct-acting, all-oral antiviral medications.

Treatment results in reduced inflammation and scarring of the liver in most patients who are cured of hepatitis C and also occasionally (but to a much lesser extent) in those who relapse or are not cured.

What is hepatitis C infection? How many people are infected?

Hepatitis C virus infection is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (also referred to as HCV). It is difficult for the human immune system to eliminate hepatitis C from the body, and infection with hepatitis C usually becomes chronic. Over decades, chronic infection with hepatitis C damages the liver and can cause liver failure. In the U.S., the CDC has estimated that approximately 29,718 new cases occurred in 2013. When the virus first enters the body there usually are no symptoms, so this number is an estimate. Up to 85% of newly-infected people fail to eliminate the virus and become chronically infected. In the U.S., more than three million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most commonly detected among people who are 40 to 60 years of age, reflecting the high rates of infection in the 1970s and 1980s. There are 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S. related to hepatitis C infection. HCV infection is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. and is a risk factor for liver cancer.

Hepatitis C virus.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is one of several viruses that can cause viral hepatitis. It is unrelated to the other common hepatitis viruses (for example, hepatitis A or hepatitis B). Hepatitis C is a member of the Flaviviridae family of viruses. Other members of this family of viruses include those that cause yellow fever and dengue fever.

There are at least six different genotypes (strains) of the virus which have different genetic profiles (genotypes 1 to 6). In the U. S., genotype 1 is the most common strain of hepatitis C. Even within a single genotype there may be some variations (genotype 1a and 1b, for example). Genotyping is used to guide treatment because some viral genotypes respond better to some therapies than to others.

Like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C multiplies very fast and attains very high levels in the body. The genes that make the surface proteins of the virus also mutate (change) quickly, and thousands of genetic variations of the virus ("quasi-species") are produced daily. It is impossible for the body to keep up with making anti-HCV antibodies against all of the quasi-species circulating at one time. It has not been possible yet to develop an effective vaccine because the vaccine must protect against all genotypes.

Hepatitis C infection in the liver triggers the immune system, which leads to inflammation. Very few people experience typical hepatitis symptoms such as dark urine or clay coloured stools in acute or early infection. Chronic hepatitis C usually causes no symptoms until very late in the disease, and hepatitis C has been referred to by sufferers as the "sleeping dragon." Over several years or decades, chronic inflammation may cause death of liver cells and scarring ("fibrosis"). Extensive scarring in the liver is called cirrhosis. This progressively impairs vital functions of the liver. Cirrhotic livers are more prone to liver cancer (hepatoma). Drinking alcohol speeds up liver damage with hepatitis C. Concurrent HIV infection also accelerates progression to cirrhosis.

What is the contagious period for hepatitis C?

Because hepatitis C is transmitted by exposure to blood, there is no specific period of contagiousness. If a person develops chronic hepatitis C, their blood carries the virus and is contagious to others for their entire life, unless the person is cured of their hepatitis C.

What is the incubation period for hepatitis C?

This is hard to say for certain what the incubation period for hepatitis C is because most people who are infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms early in the course of the infection. Those who develop symptoms early after getting infected (6 to 10 weeks) experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms that may not prompt a visit to the doctor.

How is hepatitis C spread?

Like HIV and hepatitis B, hepatitis C (hepatitis C virus, or HCV) is spread by exposure to infected blood (blood-borne pathogen).

The most common way of getting hepatitis C is from contaminated blood on needles shared by IV drug users.

Accidental needle-sticks in healthcare workers also have transmitted the virus. The average risk of getting hepatitis C infection from a stick with a contaminated needle is 1.8%.

Before 1992, some people acquired the hepatitis C infection from blood transfusions or blood products. Since 1992, all blood products have been screened for hepatitis C, and cases of hepatitis C due to blood transfusion now are extremely rare.

Hepatitis C infection also can be passed from mother to unborn child. Approximately 4% of children born to mothers infected with hepatitis C become infected.

Hepatitis C is not transmitted by breast-milk. However, nipples may crack and bleed during the first few weeks until the nipples are adapted to nursing, and the infant may be exposed to infected blood. If this occurs, breastfeeding should stop, and milk production can be maintained by pumping the milk and discarding it until healed.

A very small number of cases of hepatitis C are transmitted through sexual intercourse. The risk of transmission of hepatitis C from an infected individual to a non-infected spouse or sexual partner without the use of condoms over a lifetime has been estimated to be between 1% and 4%.

Hepatitis C is not transmitted by casual contact, kissing, coughing, sneezing, or sharing eating utensils. There is no transmission by bug bites. However, because of the potential for blood exposure, members of the household are advised not to share shaving razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes.

Poor infection control practices during tattooing and body piercing potentially can lead to spread of infection. This may occur in prison or nonprofessional situations, but it has not been reported in licensed, commercial tattooing facilities where it has been studied.

There have been some outbreaks of hepatitis C when instruments exposed to blood have been re-used without adequate cleaning and sterilization between patients.

Hepatitis C can be transmitted from an organ donor to an organ recipient. Donors of organs are tested for hepatitis C.

If the donor who provides the organ is infected with hepatitis C, it is offered to a recipient who also is infected with hepatitis C.

For kidney transplant recipients, however, this does not seem to affect long-term outcome after transplantation.

For liver transplant recipients who have hepatitis C and receive an organ from a person who is not infected with hepatitis C, the transplanted organ is expected to become infected within a few weeks. Fortunately, newer medications are allowing successful treatment of hepatitis C after transplants, and this area of medicine continues to evolve.

Photograph Courtesy: infinit health care

Special correspondent : Sunil Kumar